Tierra Del Sol 2021 – First Weekend Wrap Up

Hi Everybody !  

Well, we had a great gathering again this year despite the fact that we ended up going in two groups and although there are surely hundreds of stories we will all be sharing, here are some of the highlights and things:

First and foremost – No one got hurt and everyone made it home safely !

Well the first group out to TDS this year had a great time.  Steve and Trevor got out there Tuesday around 2pm and were able to get the plateau for us.  Jeff also got there on Tuesday a little after 4pm. We set up camp and ate and had a campfire.  Armando and Drew came and dropped off his toyhauler and left to come back on Thursday.  Wednesday morning we put up the rebar and caution tape “gates” and perimeter, which worked out well, as it kept other wheelers passing around us and not thru us.  

We ended up with 18 off road rigs with 3 of those being “slightly modified stockers” that stayed to the easy stuff.  We had 22 adults and 6 kids that camped with us and 5 others that came for a day and left…so we had a great group. Here’s who showed up: Steve, Trevor, Jeff, Briggs, Paul, Paul’s wife and their 2 grandkids, Ken, Skylar, Armando, Rene, Eric, Tim, Austin, Hanna, Donald, Mary, Randy and his two boys, Drew and two boys, Joe, Joe’s son and Joe’s daughter.  Jason, Chris, Garrett and two lady friends came Sat. wheeled and left Sat. after the night run.  Hope I didn’t miss anyone.

The weather was great every day – 75, 73, 80 and 84 Mon thru Sat.  We had mostly calm to a slight breezes every day that thankfully blew the right direction and kept the dust away….for the most part.  We only had a couple hours of WIND and that was Saturday night right around sunset, and fortunately it came up quickly and died away just as quickly.  We had nice campfires every night, so thanks to everyone who brought firewood.  

Tuesday before sunset Steve and Trevor went to play in some of the little grooves and hills for a bit just across the road from camp, and came back within about 20 minutes because Steve’s fan chewed into his new aluminum radiator.  We ate dinner and had a campfire. 

Steve left early Wednesday morning and drove the couple hours to his house and brought back a couple spare stock radiators and fan setups.   He had the replacement radiator and fan installed by early afternoon.  It sprinkled off and on that morning and got steadier in the afternoon…nothing heavy, the ground didn’t get muddy or anything and we wheeled from 3:30 to 6 with our windshield wipers on.  We got back to camp and by then the sprinkling was quite steady and it was dark and so we called it a night.  Briggs got to camp about 2:30 am Wednesday.  

Most everyone got to camp on Thursday and so I lost track of who came when and where everyone wheeled…sorry about that.  Folks went on day runs and about 8-10 of us did sunset into night runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Thursday’s wasn’t too late…maybe 11ish, but Friday nights’ run got back around 1 or 1:30am and Saturday’s got back before midnight…and of course, we sat around campfires those nights.

I do know that a backcountry trip was made to what we thought was what was left of “Twin Palms” and then on to the Radio/Microwave Tower on S22 – it’s the one that is visible to the west from camp.  Also numerous excursions were made straight out of camp and across the riverbed to play in that area.  Some folks got their first “behind the wheel” chance to practice driving over there. There were at least few times that a group went over to the Obstacle Course to try what they dared to try.  Rene led one group over there Friday afternoon and unfortunately cracked his T-Case open coming up “Byron’s Crack”  but his group strapped him back to camp safely.  He was ready to call it “game over” and just chill at camp for the rest of the weekend….but we talked him into pulling it and going home to get and rebuild his spare T-Case.  Trevor jumped right into action and in less than a half hour he and Rene had that T-Case out and Rene was on the road.  

Other “breakage” happened:  Trevor broke a rear axle Friday but he seems to break one or two every year…and he carries spares, ATV and gear oil and had it changed out in a couple hours and was ready for the evening/night run…and was good to go for the rest of the week.  Randy busted his front driveshaft during a night run on his Grand Cherokee, on the harder bi-pass at Rock Buggy, but he smartly was carrying a brand new one…and had it changed out in short order and was ready to keep on wheeling.  Saturday afternoon, Steve’s swing away tire carrier bolt broke while trying to climb a difficult ledge in the gullies, dropping the whole spare tire, hi-lift jack and carrier on the ground.  We loaded it into Austin’s Toyota and brought it back to camp.  Lastly, upon checking their rig Sunday morning Jeff and Briggs saw that they had gear oil puking out of the left front axle housing, so at least their rig made it till the end of the week. 

Besides the normal playing around in the gullies and hills due north of camp, every day and every night groups of us trekked up and across the plateaus and down the other side and headed to the Telephone Booth area to play. The Ash Rock formations at “signpost” were fun to go up again…we did that a couple times but we didn’t sit there waiting for rigs to go up it…had too much else to do.  Besides, there weren’t any of the “big rigs” out there when we passed by.  But on one of our  Rock Buggy – the waterfall area on the north side of Telephone Booth was a real challenge this year…the sand at the base had gone down what seemed to be 2 or 3 feet lower than we all remembered where it was last year.  Jason was able to climb right up it with his diesel powered Samurai and both Trevor and Rene were able to do it with just a touch of help…a couple guys pulling sideways on their winch cables was all it took to keep them from tipping over…so they made it up too.  

We disbanded camp Sunday morning with folks saying their good byes and leaving at various times. The winds for the drive home Sunday were light and the traffic was heavy for some, but the good news was that everyone made it home safely!!

I am sure that there are more tales to tell, and I’m sorry if I missed yours.  But all in all, it was a great week!!  Everyone was respectful, we all ate good, no one ran out of liquids, and we had fun.  Most importantly, no one got hurt !!  Thanks again: To those who brought firewood, To those who shared their supplies, To those who helped each other on the trails and To those who provided their mechanical skills when repairs were needed…Kudos to everybody !!!

I’m speaking for everyone when I say that, “we look forward to next year and hope that we can all get together again.”  (and maybe before then too)

Till then, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Count Your Blessings !!!

Happy Trails,


Bradshaw Trail 2021 – A Newbies View

Written by Brian K., a member who joined the club recently

January 29th – 31st, 2021

I bought my Jeep Cherokee WK2 as an entry into off-roading. My photography was begging to get away from the heavily traveled roads and explore the back country where soft core campers and Prius drivers would never be found. This was the impetuous in joining on this trip. I could learn about the off-roading and see how others vehicles handle different terrain.

Surprisingly, the group wasn’t just men and their toys. A few females and even a teen joined. Everyone seemed cool and Brent was great to lend me a radio so I could listen in and be part of the chatter. I stayed quiet expect for an occasional poke about how my jeep was getting over 30 mpg driving so slow in the highway convoy.

The first night, we were getting to know each other. The preconception of loud and obnoxious off-roading types was disappearing quickly.  

In the morning, everyone began to settle in a bit more. We were ready to go by the 9:00 am anchors up plan. At 9:15 we set off . Easy graded roads lie ahead for most of the next 8 hours. We just needed to get to the trailhead.

It was a wide wash with severe wash boarding for what felt like 8-10 miles. The Jeeps rattled and shook violently back and forth. Dick had his Dodge with a camper shell and I could have sworn we would be picking the pieces up after the non-stop swaying and slamming of the unforgiving road-way. Finally, after an hour or so of this relentless shock absorber work out, the road smoothed and flowed east. It was an easy ride in the magnificent beauty of the Colorado Desert.

Occasionally, a jeep would jump out of the convoy and dart back and forth through the wash around us. The need to play was palpable. These roads were boring and we needed excitement. It briefly came with a small water hole left on the road from the recent storms. Most of the jeeps dashed through it while staying in formation. I could see from my position there was a fair amount of water and Emily hit the puddle at a good clip. Water cascaded up and over her jeep covering it with the muddy soup. I had just enough time to close my sunroof before I hit the puddle. I’m glad I did. On the radio, Emily expressed her surprise to the sudden not so clean shower.

It was Dick that spotted the dragging plastic splash shield loose from under my WK2.  I pulled over to assess the fix.  Brent had the ratchet and we were back on the road in 10 minutes.

In the afternoon, we pulled off to explore a trail to Chuckawalla well. I Wish I would have followed. It was the only side trek we would take on the trip. A missed opportunity.

As the sun began its slow decent to the west and the shadows growing ever longer. We set off to find the evening campsite. The turn off was about 10 miles to the east. We slowly worked across a dry wash into what seemed to be an ancient cinder cone lava field. The path was rough and I was worried about the tread on Cherokee. The other Jeeps easily advanced up the rough terrain but there was no way my tires would take the jagged rocks for long. Luckily Dick called it and we made the decision to back track.

The dry river bed we crossed looked promising for a place to camp. It was a ravine with a good 6-15ft wall around it. The camp would be protected from the desert winds and we would have plenty of space to spread out and have a big fire.

Camp was set up quickly. Each person broke away to make their dinners and beds before the blanket of night was pulled over the sky. Slowly each camper drug over a chair to feel the fire’s warmth and talk of the days events. The night was cloudless, the moon full and the wine flowed freely. It was a lot of fun to laugh and here stories of these new friends.

There is so much I don’t know about off-roading but I’m intrigued and look forward to learning. It’s more about building confidence. I don’t imagine myself doing super technical courses but having the skills to get in and out of tight locations as well as the GPS and Comms. is exciting.

The next morning, everyone was cleaning their camps and cooking breakfast. The sunrise was beautiful. The wind had kicked up during the night and was whipping through the desert scrub. It sounded like a highway even though we were miles from the nearest paved roadway. After a cloudless day on Saturday, we finally had some beautiful wispy clouds to diffuse the light and give some texture to the sky.

We broke camp and were back on the road by 9:00am. Joe and Bobby fell into formation behind my truck. It was baffling how Joe stayed standing in the sunroof for the many hours the day before and now again this morning. However, It did make great photo opportunities. Unfortunately, we only had a couple hours of easy road left before we hit highway 78 at the far end of the trail.

At the highway, the caravan pulled over to re-inflate tires and straighten up their cabs. Summer and I decided to head south and spend Sunday exploring the sand dunes, Salton Sea and Palm Springs. 

It was a great beginners trip. No major incidences. An easy way for me to dip into a world Im not familiar with. I wish we had more time. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and look forward to going further into this world.

– A dude driving a Jeep WK2    

Coyote Flats 2020

On Thursday July 23 at 7:30 AM the group met at the Casitas Pass turnoff to gather for the convoy to Bishop. I rolled in to find Kalvin and his wife Natalia waiting in their Mojito! Green JL Rubicon; they were soon joined by Kirk in “Blackie” and Darrell in his yellow TJ (that I have come to call “Trusty the TJ” in my head). Kalvin and his family were trying to coordinate with another family and planned to join us later in Bishop once they got their plans firmed up. We exchanged mobile numbers and looked forward to meeting later in the day. 

In addition to Kalvin’s two vehicles, Darrell’s daughter Emily planned to join us later in Bishop as well. So Kirk, Darrell, and I hit the road and arrived in Bishop at 1:15 pm after a couple of stops for gas. After fueling up again, we headed to Browns Town campground to find the Tinkers and await Emily’s arrival in her black-on-black JL Moab., (Emily arrived only an hour behind us, despite having left 2 hours later than us!) 

Unfortunately, we learned that George and his wife would not join at Coyote Flats, as they had already made the run earlier that day and understandably decided that it was too far to do it as another day trip. At 2 PM, we said goodbye and the four Jeeps headed West to find the trailhead. Within a couple of miles, we were at the start and aired down in the hot dry air of the high desert. 

The climb up to Coyote Flats starts on a gradual sandy wide road, but quickly turns to a rutted, rocky and steep climb up to about 8,800’ 

After the climb and a couple of creek crossings, we were greeted by sweeping vistas of the high meadows. 

After 2.5 hours, the 4 Jeeps rolled into our camp area just after 5 PM and began setting up camp. 

There was even a latrine – all that was needed was to “decorate” a bit with a blue tarp and voila! The Teepee Toilet! 

The following morning, we made an attempt to hike to Baker Lake but could not find the trailhead. Eventually I found the lake and radio’d back to camp that the fishing was pretty good! 

Late Friday afternoon Kalvin and family and friends arrived with tales of a a double-breakdown (or should I say “brake-down”?) in Fillmore requiring two replacement front calipers at two different locations. Then a harrowing account of their 5 hour journey up to the camp site. All were ready for some relaxation time at camp! 

Saturday morning was time for some exploration by Jeep, and Kalvin and son David joined Kirk, Emily, Darrell, and I to head out across the upper flats to scout around. The weather was perfect and the relatively easy trails led us to some incredible vistas. Unfortunately while heading out, Kirk lost his rear passenger side shock mount, so we pulled off the trail for about 45 minutes while Kirk removed the shock and its broken mount. For the remainder of the trip, Kirk got used to the boat-like ride of driving uneven terrain without a rear shock… 

Lunch Stop at Coyote Lake 

After the lunch break we headed toward Coyote Ridge. Some decided to stay in the beautiful valley and enjoy the sights (and take great photos!) while Kirk and I headed to the top. 

The view from 11,500’ 

Video clip of the view from the top: 

After the visit to Coyote Ridge, we re-grouped and headed back toward camp, which is when we had our second incident of the day – Darrell blew out a sidewall on his Jeep just before the creek crossing. Kirk helped him swap the spare and air back up quickly with his PowerTank and we were back on the road, headed across the long meadow. 

The road across the meadow is long and sandy, punctuated with enough rocks to make you slow down every 100 yards or so. 

At the end of the main “lower” meadow is a bridge crossing that connects up to Sanger “upper” Meadow: Video 

We rolled back into camp around 4 pm and settled back with cold drinks and folding chairs for the rest of the evening and had a nice big fire with the abundant pine wood found around the camp. 

Sunday morning Kalvin and family packed up to head down to lower elevations and in search of lakes with trout while Darrell, Emily, Kirk, and I loaded up our packs and took the hike up to Baker Lake for some alpine lake fishing. 

Unfortunately the fishing was slow, but the scenery was fantastic. 

After a couple of hours we headed back to camp for a lazy afternoon of taking turns shooting cans off a log with a .22. Good ol’ fashioned fun! 

And in case you’re wondering, Emily is one helluva shot! She managed to hit a 3” pine cone off the top of a can at 25 yards, shooting offhand! 

After the hike, we spent a wonderfully relaxing afternoon at camp shooting cans off a log with a 22 and hanging out (for what it’s worth, Emily can hit a 2” pine cone off the top of a can at 25 yards off-hand!) 

The lazy afternoon turned into a lazy evening of cooking, enjoying cold beverages, and checking in on each other’s dinners. 

Monday morning we all decided to pack up and head home and we’re on the trail by 9 AM for the (surprisingly) arduous journey back down the mountain. 

Credit to Darrell for most of the amazing photos!

Written By: Brent C. 

Owens Lake 2020

Friday afternoon we set up base camp at the Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns. In attendance were Kirk, Bobbie and Joe, George and Pam, Bryan Tiffany and Kacey, Art Norma Diego and Aldo and myself. Also camping with us were my daughter Jessica and her family and friends from Atascadero. We had 7 vehicles on the trail including the entire Slattery fleet. 

Friday night weather was the typical Owens Valley wind but not too cold. The rest of the weekend was perfect with mild temperatures and no wind. We had campfires each night and fireworks displays. 

Saturday morning I herded up the group and we headed for Swansea on the eastern shore of Owens Lake. At the trailhead we aired down and started up the mountain. The trail goes from 3600ft to over 9500ft and passes through several ecological zones. Along the way we passed several towers that are remains of the salt tram. The trail is fairly easy except for a couple of rock ledges that need to be climbed. No one had any trouble except Chub Chub overheated and we had to take a cool down break. 

Near the top we stopped in a shaded area for lunch and a bathroom break. From there we went to the Burgess mine at the top of the mountain. The only thing there are a run down cabin and several holes in the ground. This is on the ridge of the Inyo Mountains and has spectacular views of Owens Valley and Mt Whitney to the west and the Saline Valley to the east. 

Next we set off to the south along the ridge to the Salt Tram Transfer Station. This structure was built around 1910 to bring salt from the Saline Valley to the Owens Valley. It’s amazing that they could haul all this construction material to the top of the mountain and also build all the towers. For more information check out this site (www.owensvalleyhistory.com/saline_tramway1/page50a.html). 

From there we went to Cerro Gordo ghost town. The town was closed to tours that weekend but we stopped and looked around a little. We helped a couple in a IH Scout that was stuck in drive low range. It had a new Chevy LS conversion and the transmission linkage was too close to the exhaust and had melted. We unhooked the cable and showed them how to move the selector from under the vehicle. I hope they made it home. Check out (https://cerrogordomines.com) for more Cerro Gordo information. 

Sunday morning we headed up to Horseshoe Meadows in the Sierras directly above our base camp. This was all paved road but is considered one of the steepest and highest altitude maintained roads in the country. Chub Chub again over heated so the Slatterys turned around. The campground was closed due to COVID but the views were great. We stopped at a view spot to watch a hang glider launch but he chickened out. 

We then headed down the mountain and drove through the Alabama Hills to the Reward mine on the eastern side of the valley. The Reward Mine is an abandoned gold mine with tunnels large enough to drive into. Bobbie, George and myself with Kirk ridding with Bobbie drove in about a 1/4 mile. Turning around was the hardest part but it was fun. 

We went back to basecamp for dinner, target shooting and a campfire. The younger ones were let loose on the trails in the area to work on their driving skills and Joe got to use Bobbies new winch to pull Kacey out of the mud. Kacey blamed it on her navigator (Bryan). 

Monday we broke camp and drove home. It was a great weekend and I was to thank all who attended. I’ll probably do it again next year.

Written By: Dick

Staying active while maintaining social distancing

The COVID-19 virus and social distancing has affected everybody.. thankfully, club members have found ways to stay together and stay active! Below are some of the stuff that we have been up to recently.

One of our members — Brent, his wife, and dog — took the opportunity early on to escape and take social distancing to the extreme with a trip to Carrizo Plains. Other than a few Colorado ZR2s with roof top tents that they saw on the road in, they never saw another vehicle or human being from Friday through Sunday.  Lots of wild life, though – including a family of coyotes with 5 pups that they were able to watch with binoculars for about 45 minutes.  The pups and Dad were playing raucously while Mom kept a watchful eye on a large Golden Eagle that was perched near by.  It had them wishing for their DSLR camera and a big lens….

Like many others, the club had their first with a virtual meeting for the April club meeting. We met at the same time, and went through the typical agenda.. as expected there was multiple comments of, “how we wish we could be together.” There was one unexpected perk of the virtual format though; people were setting their background of campsites or popular 4wd areas, and we had fun with that for quiet a while. We don’t normally have the ability to share all the photos from our computers to everybody, and we definitely took advantage of the moment!

Shortly after the club meeting in April — what initially started as a conditions check-in over the club e-mail list about West Camino Cielo, turned into a real run for a small group. The plan was to drive West Camino Cielo from the 154 to Refugio Rd. The road meanders around the mountain-top, with spectacular ocean views along the way. A group of 3 rigs ended up meeting up near the Winchester Gun Club Shotgun Range at 9:30am, and headed over all the way to Refugio pass road. Total moving time was 1h40min at a slow, easy pace.

It began to rain lightly just at 9:15 and a light rain continued the entire time with a foggy/drizzly wind blowing in from the SE obscuring the views, especially at the ridge tops.

Early on, the group stopped while they checked in with a guy in a disabled VW crossover. He had damaged his trans and couldn’t move forward. Thankfully, he had a friend coming with a truck so we left him there to wait, since it wasn’t practical for one of us to try to tow him out (and unnecessary). It was weird not being able to say “hop in and I’ll drive you up to the road head” though.

The streams of water washing the trail made for extra interest, and there were enough washouts that they said the road could deserve a “high clearance vehicles recommended” sign.

It was rocky, so for comfort most aired down but 4WD wasn’t really necessary. At the time, the entire road probably could have been done in 2wd.. even in the mud and rain. All in all, the group enjoyed the day out on the road.

Last, but certainly not least… we have a new rig in the club. Bryan and Tiffany added a Jeep Wrangler JKU to their garage, and affectionately named it “Chub Chub”. They wasted no time getting the “trail rated” certification with a lift, 37″ tires, some big rocks, and mud.

During these strange times, we are grateful for each other and we’re grateful to still have the ability to stay social and active. We are looking forward to some sort of normality and the first club trip after all this, but until then we are making the best of the situation. From our family to yours, stay safe.. we’re alone together.

Randsburg 2019

The Santa Barbara 4×4 club made its annual Randsburg run out to the Mojave desert during the recent Veterans day weekend.   Some members arrived on Thursday to secure our club’s favorite location and everyone else flowed in on Friday. We had a good mixture of club rigs including Jeep J K’s, a new J L, T J’s, CJ’s and even a Samurai.  Many of our club members take advantage of motorhomes, truck campers as well as there were even a couple of ground tents to round everything out.   The weather was fantastic night and day, high 70’s during the day and low 40’s at night.  We even had the added benefit of a full moon, incredible campfires (expertly built and tended by our club’s resident bond fire builder/extraordinaire Jeff )  and as an unexpected bonus we even received multi-night  repetitive visits from a family of kit foxes which we thought found us all very entertaining.

     The Desert is always beautiful in its own way and this trip did not disappoint.  Our runs were guided by our most experienced “trail boss” Dick Hoppe.  As an expert on the Randsburg area from many years of club excursions to the desert, even the club “Newbees” all felt like we were being guided by a true pro’s pro.  He kept us all in check, made sure we had fun but didn’t get lost or separated and was always checking to see that we had everybody in line when we were making course change’s.  Our tail gunners for this weekend’s outing were Bryan and Jeff.  They are also two more very experienced members of the club and have been out to these areas many times.  They covered our “6“ and were there to help spot and watch out for problems.

Saturday morning after airing down and getting some chow and packing a lunch we all headed out; members included, Dick, Bryan and family, Tiffany, Casey, Brian, Jeff, Bobby & her son Joe, Kirk, George and his wife Pam & Ken as well as a guest and prospective new member Ben. 

We were all excited for a great day wheeling, exploring & sightseeing with lots of fun and adventure mixed in.  We had a FULL DAY of 4 X 4 fun as many interesting, educational and almost unbelievable “pit stops” including the abandoned open “Old Dutch Cleanse Borax Mine” in the back country near Black Mountain which we all enjoyed exploring.  Next we went to see the old Rock house built in the Randsburg mining heydays.  After a relaxing lunch with an incredible view to boot at the Rock house we headed over to the Bonanza trail to Last Chance canyon and Bickle Camp.  Walter Bickle spent 2/3’s of his life beginning in 1934 in this area prospecting, mining & was known as quite the “Renaissance man” and was also affectionately know as a “true-life desert-rat miner”.  

     It was eye-opening to consider the incredible struggles of the people of those times trying to eeeek out an existence in such remote and tough location with incredible tough hot & inhospitable terrain. After seeing all that was there we headed for the Burro Schmidt Tunnel, another popular sight to see by 4 x 4 in the Mojave desert.  It took Burro Schmidt 38 years to hand dig through the mountain.  It was by all accounts a story of will, determination and persistence.  The goal was to create a way to transport the mined oar more easily as it created a shortcut straight through the mountain.  It was incredible to see.  A few club members were adventurous enough to make the nearly ½ mile trek down the tunnel to the other side.  

After gathering all our members, we all headed back to camp via Goler Gulch and the Narrows for a fun evening around a roaring bond fire while cooking up our dinners for the night.  Many shared special treats that they had cooked or prepared specially for the trip while we all shared stories from the day and what we had seen. What a great day. 

Sunday, the plan was to head to Government peak.  It is the highest mountain in the area with an elevation of 4,573’.  Dick again expertly guided a group of us up the mountain through changing various terrain including bouldered riverbeds, narrow rocky canyons and even several challenging dry waterfalls of various difficulty.  We snaked our way all the way to the top.  All club members on the run made it up to the top without issue and had a great time especially with the anticipation of ice cream and lunch in the little town of Randsburg at the general store afterwards.  After spending some time at the top of Government Peak and enjoying a 360 degree view of the Mojave Desert, we all headed down the mountain past the East side of the Yellow Aster tailings on our way to Randsburg.  Well, unfortunately, because of the long holiday weekend the little mining town of Randsburg was inundated and overflowing with off roaders of every conceivable type.  It appeared we all had the same idea. So, while we didn’t get a cold treat we all enjoyed a nice break in the shade where we had some snacks and did a little people and rig watching; it was a packed house.

         While most of us had to head back to “civilization” on Sunday a few us diehards stayed one more night and enjoyed the amazing desert evening, another full moon, some good food, conversation and we made sure we burned up the rest of the wood that was so generously provided by club members.  We left a spotless camp when we were all done and I’m sure everybody is looking forward to next year’s trip. 

Shaver Lake – Labor Day Weekend 2019

After all the hard work preparing for Fiesta and the work from the day of Fiesta, we were due for a good off-roading trip. During the August meeting a trip to Shaver Lake was scheduled the weekend of Labor Day. The plan was to do runs on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was going to be the more difficult Coyote Lake trail, and Sunday was to be determined, but Bald Mountain was a suggestion. The Cal4Wheel High Sierra Poker Run was also in the same area, so we were attempting to avoid the holiday traffic and large groups on the trail.

Most of the group made it to camp Friday night and the last rig made it just before 9am Saturday morning, the group helped unload their camp stuff and we were headed to the Coyote Lake trailhead by 9:15am.

We arrived at the Red Lake / Coyote Lake trailhead with 9 total rigs – Mark & Avery, Buddy & Jamie, Dick, Bryan S., Rob & Dorothy, Bryan & Kristina, John & Mia in the 2 Willy’s, and Larry. After airing down we set off towards Coyote Lake.

The beginning of the trail is pretty easy and everybody knew what line their rig should take but unfortunately we did have some issues early on. About an hour in, a third of the way in one of the rigs was having vapor lock issues. After cooling down the fuel pump and engine compartment we continued moving forward.

We made it to Red Lake, had a quick stop for water and bathroom break before continuing on towards Coyote Lake. This second part of the trail is much more difficult than the first in general, and immediately after passing the Coyote Lake gate entrance is one of the harder obstacles. All in all everybody made it up on their own and we continued onward.

After an hour or so we made it to Coyote Lake. There was plenty of people there with most of the camp sites filled up. We found our spot in the shade, had some lunch lunch, but most of were eager to hop back in the rigs and head back out so we did just that!

The way out from Coyote Lake was much quicker than the way in; partially because it was mostly down hill, as well as a gain in confidence making it to the end already. At one spot the tail end rig got high centered, and we used the Hi-Lift and some excellent rock placement to safely get them over. Aside from a bunch of dust and the wind not in our favor this direction, everybody knew the lines to take and we made steady progress towards the trail head, and took the highway back to camp.

Sunday was an amazing morning — beautiful 70 degree weather and a sudden rain shower. The previous night around the camp fire we all decided that the run for the day was going to be a bit more relaxed, and likely involve some time by the lake side relaxing. Everybody packed their coolers, chairs, towels and swim suits and we hit the trail. The plan was to stop at Mckinley Grove and check out the grove of Giant Sequoia, do the beginning of the Dusy Trail — Voyager Rock [aka “Chicken Rock”], and then head back to Shaver Lake and relax for a bit before heading back to camp which is close by.

Mckinley Grove Sequoia

The Mckinley Grove was the first stop, and it was amazing! The trees had to be 30 feet in diameter or more and thousands of years old [which is young for a Sequoia!]. After some photos and reading the fun facts about the treats we continued towards the Courtright Reservoir and Dusy trailhead.

To get to the Dusy trailhead you need to cross the Courtright Reservoir dam, which can be intimidating if you are afraid of heights. There was lots to see, and the terrain in this area is very different than the terrain around Coyote Lake. There is a lot more granite rock and slaps of granite, somewhat akin to the Rubicon Trail.

We get to the Dusy trailhead with no issues. The Dusy starts immediately off with a small rock garden, and then leads to a massive 100yard – 45 degree incline on a granite rock slope. It’s not necessarily a difficult obstacle if done right, but the slope can be intimidating the first time you drive it. After watching a few people go up we get in line and almost immediately there’s some action.

The first rig, Dick in his white Willy’s Jeep gets half way up the hill and starts having fuel delivery issues, the engine cuts off, and he’s forced to hold the brake on the slope while we get him hooked up on a strap and pulled up to the top. The second rig, Bryan and Kristina in the Black Jeep, get over the rock garden but as you can see in the video there is immediately an issue, and it leads to an exciting moment.

Breakdown on Voyager Rock

The rear track bar / pan-hard bar mount had torn off from the axle from the bind and forces, which caused the rear axle to become extremely offset towards the passenger side, which caused the tire to rub the frame and suspension mounts and pop the rear drive side tire. This was supposed to be the easy day, so we were all at full air pressure which is why it was such a big bang.

The first step was to get the rig out of the way and to a place we could work on it. We got the Jeep strapped to another and secured on the 45 degree slope to change the tire. We then used ratchet straps to pull and align the axle as best we could so that we could move the rig towards a flat spot which was somewhat in the shade. There was lots of jokes being made, and plenty to watch but more importantly there was plenty of hands helping out and we got the Jeep moved safely.

Once in the “workshop by the trees” we needed to get the broken mount and original mounting point as closely aligned so we could re-weld it and get back to the road or ideally back to camp. We decided to work smart not hard and hooked one winch up to the passenger side rock rail, and from behind to the rear axle. Through some precision winching we got it in place and Buddy and Mark started to work their magic with the welder. After some “oh yeahhh!” , “yeah baby!” and “mmmm” comments during inspection by the welder, we felt comfortable to pack everything up start heading back to camp.

There were no issues on the way out. We did add one more stop before camp — the local store to pick up some stronger IPAs — but besides that the trip to camp was uneventful. We all had plenty of stories from the day and especially enjoyed sitting around the camp fire that night.

We had two long days on the trail, but all in all everybody had a GREAT time still. We did not run into any big groups or traffic on the trail which was awesome. We had some, it was their first time offroading on big rocks and we even had a rig get their first scratch! Most others have done the trails before, but would agree it was still a good weekend of wheeling. Everybody got home safe and came the next day [Tuesday] to the monthly club meeting!

Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade Float Build

The SB4WD Club has towed floats in the Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade — [El Desfile Histórico] for decades. The floats that our rigs pulled were built in the 60’s and over time, the wooden platforms and running gear made from Model A axles have fatigued and were starting to fail. Because we are so familiar with the floats, and have the tools and experience to take on such a job — the SB4WD Club volunteered to rebuild the floats.

It was a multi-year project but through hard work by volunteers, good food, and dedication we feel that we built floats that will last generations just like the ones they replaced. There was two phases to the project, and below are notes and plenty of pictures from along the way. Hope you enjoy!

Phase 1 – Rebuild Float Platforms

The existing platforms and underlying structure built in the 1950s and 1960s, used — to the full extent of the word — every year, and have over time become less reliable.

Rebuilding the floats was a big project and going into it we planed for it to be a multi-year project. The first year, 2018, was focused on rebuilding the float platforms. These platforms are 12′ wide and 20′ long [12’x20′] and need to be extremely resilient to whatever happens to get mounted [or danced] on in the next 50 years.

After a lot of work the platforms were put completely together and painted. They were used in the Fiesta Parade mounted ontop of the old running gear and axles.

Tim giving some words of motivation on the first day
VP doing the hard work — supervising
The long beams that supported the float platforms were hollow and rotten from termites and living a block away from the beach

Phase 2 – Replace Running Gear

The second phase of the float rebuild project involves replacing the running gear for the floats. The near running gear includes two custom made, heavy duty front and rear axles designed for the float platforms that would mount to them.

Building the new running gear was a multi-weekend and required hundreds of man-hours. The axles were built from raw materials — square steel tube for the beams, new heavy duty bearings and joints for the steering axle. Everything had to be moved, cut, welded, cleaned, painted, and put together by hand — thankfully we had many willing and able!

Historically, the floats have been disassembled — the wooden platform separated from the running gear — and the platforms stacked for storage until they are needed in August. The stacking and un-stacking of the floats is a lot of extra work and can sometimes cause damage to the platforms. As part of the design, the float platforms and running gear will be able to be stacked together, and do not need to be disassembled each year which should hopefully prolong their life.

The final product looks AMAZING!

After lots of hard work from lots volunteers the new floats were completed. They were built to last many years, and we hope that these live even longer than the last ones!! The floats should also be much easier to pull out from storage due to the easier stacking/unstacking and no need to reattach/unattach the side skirts every year. when they need to be used each year.

The floats are stacked on custom stands so that the side skirts and running gear do not need to be removed when they are moved to or from storage.